Conversation on Justice Week Kicks Off with Open Mic Event


Lina Iafanti, Contributing Writer

This year Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) is hosting the Conversation on Justice Week, a week-long event that touches on the controversial topics of today’s society with the purpose of encouraging Valencia College students to debate their thoughts on these topics in a safe place. On January 30th, the Open Mic event was hosted so students could voice their different takes on justice through a series of poems, personal stories and even rapping. A total of 12 Valencia College students, alongside two slam poetry artists, performed on the Open Mic. This event allowed students and guests to share their point of view on issues like racism, physical and psychological abuse, bullying, among others.


Haley Meserve, is an 18-year-old freshman at Valencia College. Her poem “Let’s Get This Straight” is where she talked about abusive relationships. She said that her goal with this poem was to, “connect and let people know that they aren’t alone.” Meserve also expressed how she understood this kind of situation because she experienced an abusive relationship before. “I want to [shed] some light unto some people’s situation and even help some people realize that [they’re] in an abusive relationship,” said Meserve.


Another Valencia student who performed at this event was Marisol Sanchez Bidot, an 18-year-old nursing student. Bidot’s poem was called “The Latina Women” where she talked about the stereotype many Hispanic women go through daily. Bidot said that her goal with this poem was to express the difficulties the Hispanic community goes through in today’s society in order to survive and to encourage people to help stop this ongoing stereotype.


“As a Venezuelan immigrant I relate on the racism and stereotyping of Latina women because it’s something that I go through on a daily basis” said Berenice Garcia, a 21-year-old freshman business student who was part of the audience. “However, I think that powerful statements like the ones that were talked about today is what gives me the strength to go out in the world and show them that I am much more than a heavy accent or a dark skin color.”


One of the invited slam poetry artists, Curtis X Meyer, performed a series of poems throughout the event. One of his poems was called “Division Street.” In this poem he expressed how “every city has a Division St.” that divides the wealthy from the poor. After speaking with Meyer, he disclosed how he wanted people to interpret the meaning of the poem on their own.

Ghassen Bessrour, is a 22-year-old Computer Science student. Bessrour, who was part of the audience that night, said that the open mic experience was an eye-opener for him to start expressing his point of view on controversial matters on a regular basis. “I believe that as part of a student community we should voice our opinions on hot button issues not only in open mic events but in everyday life.”


Devery Broox, a professional 32-year-old poet who also attended the open mic event, presented a black-history-month poem to the audience. In his poem, he talked about the process from anger to acceptance and showing the path to people who did not understand how difficult it was to be an African-American person in present-day society. Devery expressed how he wants to, “change perspective, challenge and play devil’s advocate in so many [different] ways” with his poems.


The coordinator of PJI on East Campus, Nicole Valentino, encouraged students take these experiences to slam poetry bars like Milkbar and Dandelion near Downtown Orlando.